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Editor,— Recent injury data collected by the Victorian Injury Surveillance and Applied Research System (VISS), suggests the current resurgence in scooter use by children is associated with increases in the numbers of children injured, some extremely seriously.
Scooter injuries to children have increased from an average of 9.5 annually (1996 to 1999) to 153 cases predicted for 2000 if there is no further increase in scooter exposure. This figure is based upon 128 cases of injury for January to September 2000. However, considering the observed monthly rate of growth in scooter exposure, we project as many as 320 scooter related injuries in Victoria alone for 2000 (R2=0.97, y=0.20x3−0.27x2−2.48x+47.67). Nationally, between 750 and 1500 Australian children may suffer injury as a result of riding a scooter by the end of 2000.
Data for the first nine months of 2000 reveals the majority of scooter related injuries are to children aged 10–14 years (55.5%). Compared with 1999, the first nine months of 2000 are associated with a sixfold increase in injuries to children aged less than 4 years (p<0.001) and a close to fivefold increase (4.7) in injuries to children aged 10–14 years (p<0.001). Interestingly, there has been a 15-fold increase in injuries sustained by children aged 5–9 years (p<0.001).
More males (64.1%) than females were injured while using scooters and 10.2% of all children injured required hospitalization. Not surprisingly, 70% of injuries occurred at home and on streets or footpaths. Head injuries accounted for 21.8% of all injuries, of which one quarter were intracranial injuries. Fractures (31.3%) and sprains and strains (21.1%) were common, and usually involved the upper limbs (82.5% and 70.4% respectively).
It is hoped that increased public awareness and new legislation requiring the wearing of safety equipment while riding a scooter will contribute to a reduction in the number of scooter injuries.
Cigarettes and fire
The need to reduce the fires associated with cigarettes and the need to do so has been the subject of some discussion in Australia and New Zealand. Following research and discussion on regulation in the US a Private Members Bill calling for the Standards Council to draw up a safety standard for cigarettes was introduced into the New Zealand Parliament in November 2000 MP and former fireman Grant Gillon. Noting that fires started by cigarettes are unusually lethal Mr Gillon welcomed the prospect of cigarettes that are less likely to start fatal fires. “Typically, a cigarette fire starts when someone drops their smoke. Since they're designed not to go out until they have been totally smoked, the cigarette will burn through a cushion or mattress cover and start a fire that smoulders for hours”. The idea behind the Cigarettes (Fire Safety) Bill is that manufacturers could reduce this effect by reducing the diameter of the cigarette, reducing the density of tobacco packaging and reducing the porosity of cigarette paper (which allows less air to flow through the paper). “Cigarettes are the largest single cause of fire deaths. Twenty people are killed or injured in fires caused by cigarettes each year. This is simply about making cigarettes safer and saving lives”. “Treating injuries related to smoking fires is estimated to cost $65 million each year. That doesn't include lesser burns treated elsewhere or damage to property. It is better to spend a much smaller sum of money on fixing the problem by making cigarettes safer. “We have tried to cut down on fire deaths by educating the public and by introducing standards for the flammability of materials. These approaches are valuable, but there is one more step: the cigarette itself”. Coverage of tobacco company claims to have produced a cigarette that is less likely to start fires if carelessly handled are also starting to appear in the Australian media (sources: www.alliance.org.nz and Melbourne Herald-Sun, 29 January 2001).
A couple of “odd spots”....
A Dutchman's driving test ended prematurely when his car was ripped apart by two trains. He and his examiner hurriedly escaped after stalling on a rail crossing near The Hague. Separate trains dragged the car in two directions but no-one was hurt (The Age (Melbourne), February 2001).
A Spanish priest caught drink-driving told police he had drunk too much communion wine because he'd celebrated six masses that day. He said he had to drive to reach the churches (The Age (Melbourne) February 2001).